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GUINNESS PRO12 Preview: Cardiff Blues v Ulster

GUINNESS PRO12 Preview: Cardiff Blues v Ulster

Unbeaten Ulster are back in Wales for the second time this month – tackling eighth-placed Cardiff – as they look to record their first win on Welsh soil since last October.

GUINNESS PRO12: Friday, September 19

CARDIFF BLUES (8th) v ULSTER (4th), BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park, 7.35pm (live BBC 2 Northern Ireland/BBC 2 Wales)

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Team News: Ireland duo Tommy Bowe and Paddy Jackson will play their first match of the season when Ulster take on the Cardiff Blues at BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park on Friday.

Bowe and Jackson are two of five changes to the side that beat Zebre 33-13 at Kingspan Stadium last weekend.

Louis Ludik, who started last week’s game on the bench, is selected at full-back and is joined in the back-three by two of the ten Ireland internationals in the team – Andrew Trimble, who starts on the right wing, and Bowe who returns on left.

Stuart Olding comes back in at inside centre, while Darren Cave has recovered from the rib injury that he sustained against Zebre to take his place at outside centre.

Returning out-half Jackson will play his 65th game for Ulster and is partnered half-back by Paul Marshall.

Up front there is an unchanged front row with Andrew Warwick and Wiehahn Herbst starting either side of hooker and captain Rory Best.

Franco van der Merwe returns to the second row and starts alongside Dan Tuohy. The back row all started against Zebre, with Robbie Diack selected at blindside flanker, Chris Henry named at openside and Nick Williams picked at number 8.

There are a further three Ireland internationals on the bench – Rob Herring, Craig Gilroy and Roger Wilson. Callum Black, Bronson Ross, Neil McComb, Michael Heaney and Ian Humphreys complete the matchday squad.

Meanwhile, Cardiff Blues director of rugby Mark Hammett has called up flanker Josh Navidi, out-half Gareth Davies and winger Richard Smith for their first starts of the new GUINNESS PRO12 campaign.

Hammett makes a total of three changes to the team that lost 33-12 at home to Glasgow Warriors last Sunday. Davies comes in to partner Lewis Jones at half-back, with Rhys Patchell moving to full-back for the round 3 tie.

Adam Thomas also moves position to outside centre where he join forces with Gavin Evans in midfield. Smith provides the firepower out wide with Alex Cuthbert on the other wing.

Navidi is named at openside flanker in a back row that also contains Josh Turnbull and Manoa Vosawai, while hooker Matthew Rees will again captain the Blues.

New faces on the replacements bench this week include Rhys Williams, Ellis Jenkins and Geraint Walsh, who could make his debut for the Welsh region.

CARDIFF BLUES: Rhys Patchell; Alex Cuthbert, Adam Thomas, Gavin Evans, Richard Smith; Gareth Davies, Lewis Jones; Sam Hobbs, Matthew Rees (capt), Adam Jones, Jarrad Hoeata, Filo Paulo, Josh Turnbull, Josh Navidi, Manoa Vosawai.

Replacements: Rhys Williams, Taufa’ao Filise, Scott Andrews, Macauley Cook, Ellis Jenkins, Lloyd Williams, Cory Allen, Geraint Walsh.

ULSTER: Louis Ludik; Andrew Trimble, Darren Cave, Stuart Olding, Tommy Bowe; Paddy Jackson, Paul Marshall; Andrew Warwick, Rory Best (capt), Wiehahn Herbst, Dan Tuohy, Franco van der Merwe, Robbie Diack, Chris Henry, Nick Williams.

Replacements: Rob Herring, Callum Black, Bronson Ross, Neil McComb, Roger Wilson, Michael Heaney, Ian Humphreys, Craig Gilroy.

Referee: Neil Paterson (Scotland)
Assistant Referees: Leighton Hodges, Jon Mason (both Wales)
Television Match Official: Gareth Simmonds (Wales)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Cardiff Blues to win: 2/1; Draw: 20/1; Ulster to win: 4/11

Pre-Match Quotes: Callum Black (Ulster) – “Cardiff lost last week but we’ve looked over their game and to be fair they took it to Glasgow and it was only the last 20 minutes that they slipped off.

“We know they are a good side and with a new coach they are playing a different style of rugby and they have a lot of internationals in they side.

“We know we are going to have to turn up and take it to them from the off to negate their big players.

“We were disappointed with how the lineout went (against Zebre), but as a whole there were certain areas that were a bit scrappy even though the scrum went well. Different combinations and a lapse in concentration makes the difference between a top scrum or lineout and a scrappy one.

“We have done several unit sessions this week to really just focus on our on roles and come Friday we’ll be ready.

“Last year we started with the two defeats. If you think about this year we mightn’t have played well against the Scarlets but we managed to get the draw – last year we lost at the Scarlets and never got a point. We have a lot to work on and we are hard on ourselves, we know if we want to be winning this competition we have to be at our best.”

Mark Hammett (Cardiff Blues) – “This game will give us another clear indication of exactly where we are as a group and during what has been a quick turnaround between games, the squad has trained exceptionally hard as we look forward to getting back out on the field.

“In the short period of time I’ve been at the Cardiff Blues, it has been pleasing to see that we have assembled a group of players who are prepared to work hard and are eager to learn.

“We have had to deal with adversity for the first time this season over the last week, but have responded by showing the right attitude and resolve. Now we need to take that mentality and determination over the whitewash and into the Ulster game.

“We have made some changes to the team and look forward to seeing those combinations. We have an agreement with the union over Sam Warburton’s availability throughout the season and we have decided to make changes in the back row this week to ensure we get the very best out of him in the long-term while also giving players like Josh Navidi a deserved chance to impress.”

Top Scorers – 2014/15 GUINNESS PRO12: Cardiff Blues – Points: Rhys Patchell 33; Tries: Kristian Dacey, Lloyd Williams, Rhys Patchell, Dan Fish, Alex Cuthbert 1 each; Ulster – Points: Ian Humphreys 20; Tries: Andrew Trimble, Dan Tuohy 2 each


Friday, September 16, 2011 – Ulster 20 Cardiff Blues 3, Ravenhill
Friday, February 17, 2012 – Cardiff Blues 21 Ulster 14, Arms Park
Friday, September 28, 2012 – Cardiff Blues 19 Ulster 48, Arms Park
Friday, May 3, 2013 – Ulster 37 Cardiff Blues 13, Ravenhill
Friday, October 25, 2013 – Ulster 39 Cardiff Blues 21, Ravenhill
Saturday, March 29, 2014 – Cardiff Blues 28 Ulster 23, Arms Park


– Cardif Blues’ lone victory in their last three GUINNESS PRO12 clashes was 41-26 against Zebre in Parma in round 1

– The Blues have been victorious in their last two encounters with Irish provinces but have not won three in-a-row against opponents from Ireland since May 2010

– Ulster are unbeaten in the opening two rounds and have secured back-to-back try-scoring bonus points

– The Ulstermen are without a win against Welsh opposition since beating the Scarlets in Belfast in March, while their only victory in Wales since 2012 came at the Ospreys last October

– Each side won its respective home game during last season’s PRO12, while the Blues have not beaten Ulster in successive matches since April 2010

– Ulster’s only win at Cardif Arms Park since September 2005 came on September 28, 2012 (although they did win when Cardiff moved home to the City Stadium)